HC order in Secretariat case per incuriam: Stalin

M.K. Stalin  

DMK president M.K. Stalin and treasurer Durai Murugan on Tuesday argued that an interim order passed by a single judge of the Madras High Court on August 3, for instituting criminal prosecution into alleged irregularities in construction of a new Secretariat complex here between 2008 and 2010, was per incuriam (lack of due regard to law/ facts).

Representing them before Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana, senior counsel P. Wilson contended that the single judge had failed to note that materials collected by the now defunct Regupathi Commission of Inquiry could not be used for criminal prosecution at all, since it would be contrary to the provisions of the Commissions of Inquiry Act of 1952.

Even otherwise, the interim order was passed on a writ petition filed by former DMK president M. Karunanidhi and that could not bind the present petitioners who had challenged a Government Order issued on September 24 ordering a Directorate of Vigilance and Anti-Corruption (DVAC) inquiry into the Secretariat construction issue, he claimed.

When Justice Pushpa Sathyanarayana wanted to know why the interim order was not taken on appeal, the counsel replied that Mr. Karunanidhi was hospitalised when the order was passed on August 3 and he died on August 7 leading to abatement of the writ petition filed by him in 2015 against the Commission proceedings.

When that writ petition was listed for final hearing, along with two similar petitions filed by the present petitioners, on October 1, the single judge recorded the submission of the State government that it had suspended the operations of the Regupathi Commission of Inquiry as directed by him through the August 3 interim order.

After the suspension, Mr. Justice Regupathi demitted office on August 24 and the government decided not to continue the commission by appointing any other retired judge of the High Court. Instead, the materials collected by the Commission were forwarded to the DVAC for a preliminary inquiry and hence the present writ petitions.

Assailing the September 24 G.O., Mr. Wilson claimed that the interim order of the single judge was not saved in the common final orders passed on October 1 in the 2015 writ petitions of Karunanidhi, Mr. Stalin and Mr. Durai Murugan since the first petitioner had died and the other two had withdrawn their petitions.

‘Non- existent order’

“Therefore, now there cannot be criminal proceedings on the basis of a non- existent interim order which had got merged with the final orders. The Commission of Inquiry was instituted by a resolution passed by the Legislative Assembly and it could be wound up only by another resolution but no such resolution was passed till date.

“Further, the report of the Commission should be tabled in the Assembly before initiating further proceedings. However, Regupathi Commission had not submitted any report in the instant case. Therefore, the materials collected by it in the course of its proceedings could not be used for criminal prosecution,” he submitted.

On the other hand, State Public Prosecutor A. Natarajan said, the new Secretariat complex, now being used as a government multi super speciality hospital, was initially planned to be constructed at an estimate of Rs. 200 crore.

However, the first revised estimate for the project jumped to a whopping Rs. 623.99 crore.

Hence, the Commission of Inquiry was instituted to inquire into allegations of substandard materials having been used for the construction as well as misuse of public money, he said. Since the SPP could not complete his arguments due to paucity of time, the judge permitted him to continue the submissions on Wednesday.